At The Movies #22: Letters to Juliet

Pop quiz, hotshot. You plan to see Get Him to the Greek with your girlfriend and a friend and get to the theater to discover not only is that movie sold out, but every other movie playing near that same time is sold out too, even movies you have no interest in seeing (like say The Karate Kid). So what do you? What do you do?

Shoot the hostage? No!

You head 10 blocks south and watch Letters to Juliet at Quad Cinemas!

I’m still not sure how we arrived at that decision.

Letters to Juliet isn’t that bad. If I caught this randomly on TBS, I’d probably remark to a friend, “Hey you know that movie Letters to Juliet? Yeah, it was on TBS and wasn’t that bad. What? No? I didn’t want to watch it; it was just on. Yes, I could have changed the channel, but what else are you going to watch on a Saturday afternoon? Yes, I could have gone outside; it is a beautiful summer day. You know what, I’m sorry I even brought it up.”

Letters to Juliet suffers from two problems. First, if you’ve seen the preview, you’ve seen the movie. How much input does a filmmaker have in what goes into the trailer for a Hollywood picture? Does the blame fall on director Gary Winick or a random guy in marketing? If it’s a random guy in marketing, it must be frustrating as a director to see the studio release a trailer that walks the audience through every beat of your movie.

The second problem is that there is no chemistry between the protagonist Sophie and her rival-turned-love-interest Charlie. I think they did such a good job at making Charlie smug and arrogant to establish him as an obstacle in Sophie’s path that when it came time for them to fall in love it just fell flat. They basically fall in love over the course of an extended montage scene. At the start of the montage, Sophie and Charlie can barely stand each other and by the end of it, they’re stealing glances at each other in the rearview mirror of Charlie’s car as he drives Sophie and his grandmother around Italy.

Charlie’s grandmother is a piece of work. She tries hard to make Sophie and Charlie get into each other, but still Grandma that’s no reason to watch from your bedroom window when your grandson finally hooks up with the girl.

“Don’t mind me. Grandma likes to watch.”

In order to make Charlie seem like somewhat of a catch, Letters to Juliet starts out with Sophie engaged to the second coming of Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers. I kept expecting him to namedrop Cousin Larry in a sentence or show up with a goat under his arm. Guys, if your girlfriend has seen this movie, you can never use the term “win-win” again. Balki uses it every time he makes a jerk move in the movie. You don’t want to associate with that.

During the whole every guy in Italy tells Vanessa Redgrave that he’s Lorenzo Bartolini bit, I was really hoping for an Italian plumber to pop up and say…

“It’sa me! Lorenzo Bartolini!”

I should apologize to the other patrons of the Quad Cinema on W. 13 St. because Julie, Bryan and I may have been a little rude with our MST3K imitation while watching this movie. Actually, maybe Bryan and I should apologize to Julie as she had to sit between us as we were both lobbing jokes about the movie.

“I’m sorry.”

The popcorn at Quad tasted stale and overly salted. It didn’t have that crunch that fresh popcorn has and there were way too many popcorn bits in my bag for this to be fresh stuff. The staff was friendly though, and even hooked us up with a free refill on a soda, which they don’t normally do.

I thought the Quad only showed indie films or small studio releases likely to win a lot of awards. Maybe Letters to Juliet fooled them because it takes place mostly in Italy?